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Clarksburg Voters to Decide School Merger Option

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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — A special town meeting on Wednesday will determine if the town will continue planning a school district merger with neighboring Stamford, Vt. 
 
The special town meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Clarksburg Elementary School and will include a review of the three possible options, and the recommendation for Option 3 from Public Consulting Group, the merger committee, and school officials.
 
Option 3 would create one unified school district straddling the Vermont/Massachusetts border and reconfigure the use of the two small-town schools, both of which are currently Grades kindergarten through 8. Stamford School, which also has a preschool, would become an early education center for Grades prekindergarten through 2. Clarksburg would become Grades 3 through 8 to coincide with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System testing that begins in the third grade. 
 
 
The other options are to not merge (Option 1) or to keep the schools separate with a shared administration (Option 2). The consulting group and school officials say Option 2 would not provide any significant benefits in costs or academics to either town.
 
"It brings the two districts together with the same administration but it doesn't address the educational needs of either school and they think it's not really a financial benefit either," Superintendent of School John Franzoni had explained recently to the Board of Selectmen.
 
Fully merging both schools would increase the numbers in each grade, eliminating the need for combined grades, open up more opportunities for programming, and allow more efficient use of both buildings.
 
The two communities began down the path toward a groundbreaking merger two years ago. The idea was prompted by Vermont's passage of Act 46, a measure designed to streamline governance and promote shared services between rural districts. Stamford was assigned to the new Southern Valley Unified Union School District with Readsboro and Halifax.
 
Stamford voted not to join that school union two years ago, preferring to explore a merger with Clarksburg or gaining "isolated" status to go its own way. But school officials believe there is little hope in becoming an isolated school as Vermont's Agency of Education has pushed for consolidations and courts have backed the state's authority.
 
Vermont has been supportive, so far, of Stamford's decision to look south, matching a grant from Massachusetts that allowed the Interstate Merger Committee to hire Public Consulting Group. Stamford, largely a bedroom community, is strongly connected to North County in culture, employment and education, with the overwhelming majority of its children attending local high schools. 
 
Should voters in Clarksburg decide to continue with the merger, much more work will have to be done before a final vote can take place. There are still legal and academic issues, buildings and maintenance, teacher contracts and pensions, impacts on Northern Berkshire School Union, funding, school choice, and governance to hash out. Plus, it will require acts of two legislatures and Congress.
 
The merger committee hopes to hire a coordinator with state grant funding to help guide the process further along.

Tags: Clarksburg School,   merger,   special town meeting,   stamford school,   

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North Adams Gets $600K Grant to Make Brayton Access Safer

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A nearly $600,000 state grant is going to make it safer for children to cross from Brayton Hill Apartments to Brayton School. 
 
The city was recently awarded $598,255 through the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program to make infrastructure improvements at the entrance to the Northern Berkshire Family YMCA and install sidewalks in the area of the school. The City Council accepted the grant on Tuesday. 
 
"This grant is an incredible opportunity for the Brayton Elementary School neighborhood and will help support pedestrian and bike safety," said Barbara Malkas, superintendent of North Adams Public Schools. "The end result of the project will facilitate behaviors that promote health and wellness in a world that can be focused on our electronic devices. We're thrilled to be a recipient of this grant and the positive effects it will have on the children and families in our community."
 
The steep driveway into the parking lot of the YMCA, which is attached to the school, and a problematic crosswalk were a focus of the City Council earlier this year. No one is sure when the crosswalk was first painted but it's never been in compliance because it doesn't run between sidewalks but rather cuts across Brickyard Court between a dirt pathway through private land and the corner of the driveway. There is also a visibility factor because of the incline of both the road and the driveway.
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